Pianist Leonardo Colafelice, 16, is the Winner of the 2012 Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition

July 28, 2012

Communications Staff

Pianist performs with orchestra.
Pianist Leonardo Colafelice
Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

OBERLIN, OHIO (July 28, 2012) – Leonardo Colafelice, a 16-year-old pianist from Altamura, Bari, Italy, is the first-prize winner of the 2012 Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition.

His stellar performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30, with Jahja Ling conducting The Cleveland Orchestra in Severance Hall on Friday, July 27, brought him the top prize of $10,000, one of the largest awards offered by an international youth competition. The prize includes concert engagements with orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai, China, and a full, four-year scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. 

Full Oberlin scholarships were also awarded to the second- and third-place winners. Xiaoyu Liu, 15, from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, won second prize and $6,000 for his performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18. Micah McLaurin, 17, from Charleston, South Carolina, won third prize and $3,000 for his performance of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 21. The competition sponsors, Thomas Cooper, a 1978 graduate of Oberlin College, and his wife Evon, presented the awards.      

The three young musicians were adjudicated by a world-renowned panel of pianists, including Robert Shannon, from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and director of the 2012 Cooper International Piano Competition; Angela Cheng, Gold Medal winner of the Arthur Rubinstein Competition and associate professor of piano at Oberlin; Seung Hae Choi, from Kyungwon University in Seoul, South Korea; Alvin Chow, associate professor of piano at Oberlin; Monique Duphil, professor of piano at Oberlin; Christopher Elton, from the Royal Academy of Music, London; Rachel Goodwin, artistic director, founder, and pianist of Ashmont Hill Chamber Music; Stanislav Ioudenitch, Gold Medal winner of the Van Cliburn Competition; Sanford Margolis, professor of piano at Oberlin; Cheung-Yu Mo ’95, professor of piano at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Hong Kong Academy of the Performing Arts; Haewon Song, associate professor of piano at Oberlin; Frances Walker-Slocum, emeritus professor of piano at the Oberlin Conservatory; and Dan Wen Wei, artist in residence at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music.

About the Winners

Leonardo Colafelice, First Prize

A native of Altamura (Bari), Italy, Leonardo Colafelice began studying piano at age 8. He is currently a student of Pasquale Iannone at the N. Piccinni Conservatory of Music in Bari. He has attended master classes and courses with Aldo Ciccolini, Marisa Somma, Aquiles Delle Vigne, Ilja Scheps, Ovidiu Balan, Tiziano Poli, and Riccardo Risaliti. Between 2005 and 2012, he won nearly 50 national and international first prizes and awards.                             

In 2010, Colafelice was the first-prize winner for piano performance at the Torneo Internazionale di Musica in Verona. Numerous other first-prize wins include the 2011 Premio Città di Padova (Padova, Italy), and the Young Pianist of the North International Competition (Newcastle, U.K.). He was the second-prize winner at the Bang & Olufsen Piano RAMA Competition for Young Pianists, Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition, and Luciano Luciani International Piano Competition. He also won fourth prize at the Val Tidone International Piano Competition. First-prize wins in 2012 include the Fryderyk Chopin International Competition (Szafarnia, Poland) and the Gina Bachauer Young Artists International Piano Competition (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Colafelice has collaborated as a soloist with many orchestras and conductors both in Italy and abroad, among them the N. Piccinni Conservatory Orchestra of Bari with Daniele Lonero, Saverio Mercadante Orchestra with Michele Marvulli, Collegium Musicum Orchestra with Rino Marrone, Balkan Festival Orchestra with Rino Campanale, Orchestra della Provincia di Bari with Silvia Casarin Rizzolo, Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto with Massimo Mazza, and the Balkan Festival Orchestra with Ovidiu Balan.

Xiaoyu Liu, Second Prize

Born in Paris, Xiaoyu Liu moved to Montreal at age 6 and began his piano studies the following year. He currently studies with Richard Raymond at the Montreal Conservatory of Music. An international performer, Liu was a guest soloist at the 27th Maison Trestler Summer Festival and 9th Festival Internazionale di Musica CIMA in Rome. He is a three-time first-prize winner in the Canadian Music Competition.

In 2010, Liu won first prize in the Grande Finale Desjardins at the Festival de Musique Classique de Bas-Richelieu. That same year, Liu performed Beethoven's Choral Fantasy with Orchestre Symphonique de Longueuil under the baton of Marc David. In 2012, he performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Sinfonia de Lanaudieres, led by Stephane Laforest.

Micah McLaurin, Third Prize

Micah McLaurin, 17, began studying the piano at age 8 with Marsha Gerber. He currently studies with Enrique Graf on scholarship from the Charleston Academy of Music and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League. He has appeared as a soloist with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, South Carolina Philharmonic (as the winner of the Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition), and the National Youth Orchestra of El Salvador.

McLaurin was the youngest pianist to ever give a recital at the International Piano Series in Charleston, and has appeared on South Carolina Educational Television and Kansas Public Radio. On numerous occasions, he has been a guest performer in the Piccolo Spoleto Festival USA. This coming season, he will perform Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 with the Charleston Symphony and Chopin's Concerto No. 2 with the Montevideo Philharmonic.

In addition to performing in concerts, McLaurin has won prizes and awards in several international competitions, including second prizes in the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists (Germany) and International Institute for Young Musicians Competition (Kansas), and fifth prize at the Hilton Head International Piano Competition. In 2011, Mr. McLaurin was the youngest of eight pianists in the world selected to participate in the Verbier Festival Academy in Switzerland, where he performed in master classes with Stephen Kovacevich, Ferenc Rados, Gábor Takács-Nagy, Lera Auerbach, and others. He also attended Music Fest Perugia in Italy, where he performed with the Perugia Festival Orchestra and received instruction from Gary Graffman.


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